PineTab 2 is another try at a Linux-based tablet, without the 2020 supply crunch

PineTab 2 is another try at a Linux-based tablet, without the 2020 supply crunch

PCB for the PineTab 2 prototype
Enlarge / PCB for the prototype PineTab 2, a successor to a tablet that hit production at the worst possible point in 2020.


Pine64, makers of ARM-based, tinker-friendly devices, is making the PineTab 2, a successor to its Linux-powered tablet that was mostly swallowed up by the pandemic and its severe global manufacturing shortages.

The PineTab 2, as described in Pine64’s “December Update,” is based around the RK3566, made by RockChip. Pine64 has based its Quartz64 single-board system on the system-on-a-chip (SoC), and has pretty much gushed about it over several blog posts. It’s “a dream-of-a-SoC,” writes Community Director Lukasz Erecinski, a “modern mid-range quad-core Cortex-A55 processor integrating a Mali-G52 MP2 GPU. And it should be ideal for devices with limited space. : it runs cool, has a variety of I/O options, solid price-to-performance ratio, and “is truly future-proof.” While Linux support was scarce early on, development for RK3566 is “booming” , and it is now an excellent candidate for mobile operating systems, Erecinski writes.

Inside a PineTab 2 prototype, with a battery and connections far from hidden for a potential replacement.
Enlarge / Inside a PineTab 2 prototype, with a battery and connections far from hidden for a potential replacement.

The PineTab 2 is a complete redesign, claims Erecinski. It has a metal chassis that is “very sturdy, while also being easy to disassemble for upgrades, maintenance and repair.” The tablet comes apart with snap-in tabs, and Pine64 will offer replacement parts. The interior is also modular, with the eMMC storage, camera, daughterboard, battery and keyboard connector all removable “in less than 5 minutes.” The 10.1-inch IPS screen, with “modern and fairly thin bezels,” should also be replaceable, albeit with more work.

Pine64’s video for their December update—details on the PineTab 2 starts at 7:11.

On that easy-to-open chassis are two USB-C ports, one for USB 3.0 I/O and one for charging (or USB 2.0 if you prefer). There’s a dedicated micro-HDMI port, and a 2-megapixel front-facing and 5-megapixel rear-facing camera (not the kind of all-in-one media production machine Apple advertises this tablet is), a microSD slot, and a headphone jack. While a PCIe system is exposed inside the PineTab, most NVMe SSDs won’t fit, according to Pine64. However, all this is subject to change before final production.

As with the original PineTab, this model comes with a removable, backlit keyboard cover, which is included by default. This makes supporting a desktop operating system for the device much more viable, Erecinski writes. The firmware chipset is the same as in the PineBook Pro, which should help with that. According to Pine64, no standard operating system has been decided so far.

The tablet should ship with two memory/storage variants, 4GB/64GB and 8GB/128GB. It’s due to ship “sometime after Chinese New Year” (January 22 to February 5), though there’s no firm date. No price has been announced, but “it will be affordable no matter which version you settle on.”

The original PineTab eventually shipped, but Erecinski describes it as “a victim of COVID and its fallout,” and its “death” as a choice to focus on the PinePhone. Pine64 later iterated on the phone to deliver the PinePhone Pro. As with the PineBook and PinePhone, context is key: This is a device meant for tinkering, experimenting or as a true low-power spare/alternative device, not a daily driver or workhorse for most people not. However, those who know themselves enough to order should keep an eye out for early next year.

List image by Pine64

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